Search Engine Frustrations – An Update

This past week, I wrote three posts about my frustrations with Ancestry. com’s search engine, in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

First, I’d like to thank three of the commenters, Gone Researching, Elizabeth Handler who writes From Maine to Kentucky and Cathy Meder-Dempsey, who writes Opening Doors in Brick Walls, for their thoughts on why Ancestry’s search engine does (or, rather, doesn’t do) what it does and suggestions for a work-around.

Special thanks to Cathy, who has had similar search issues and suggested using the key word field instead of the place field. I tried that out:


Jacob in Bourbon County is actually first on the list and the second hit is also for a Jacob Spears who lived in Kentucky. A third Jacob in Kentucky appeared 5th in the list. I’m not sure why Jacob Spears in Illinois and Missouri turned up ahead of the third Kentucky man, but as long as the Jacob I was seeking is at the top of the list, I won’t question why about the list order for the other men!

The same tip, however, doesn’t work on the slave schedules and, as Gone Researching commented, it would be due to the way the indexing project was set up.

That means for the slave schedules, page browsing would still be the way to go for any chance of success locating plantation owners.

A friend of mine who attended RootsTech went to one of Ancestry’s sessions on how to best use the website and apparently the reps indicated that using the key word field would work better than the place field.

Her comment tells me that Ancestry actually knows about this issue – how long they’ve been aware of it I have no idea – but it makes me think that it isn’t something that they are concerned about fixing.

The other big issue I mentioned about images for a given county being grouped in the county immediately preceding or following that given county in alphabetical order is still something that researchers need to be aware of.

The tail end of Oldham County, Kentucky census images in 1840 has been corrected by someone since I returned from RootsTech. The last six images of Ohio County are still grouped at the beginning of Oldham County.

Now, before I browse through county images, I check the beginning and the end of the filmstrip at the bottom of the page to be sure they correspond to my county of interest. I would strongly suggest others do the same, particularly if you don’t find a family that should be there at that time.

I’ll close this post with one further tip about searching in general. Contracts with Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage and other websites begin and end, which means that databases come and go. Researchers add photos and documents online and they remove those same photos and documents.

Whenever you find a photo or document that you want to save for future research or want to add it to your family tree, ALWAYS ALWAYS save that file to your own computer. Rename the file using your own naming system so you can easily find it again. THEN add the item to your family tree.

I have heard more times than I can count from people who excitedly linked some file to their trees only to discover that the link went bad and the image can’t be found online. If you save it to your own computer first, it won’t matter if the database disappeared or a researcher made their tree private! Plan ahead and you won’t be disappointed.


4 thoughts on “ Search Engine Frustrations – An Update”

  1. I’ve also found census page images out of order in several Texas counties. I now pay attention to the census page numbers when looking for people or families on more than one page. Family/household members are not always indexed together.

  2. I was glad to hear my tip worked for you, Linda. Unfortunately, I do not believe Ancestry is interested in fixing “little” details like this. They aren’t little to us!
    I’m seeing the same disinterest in getting the Rootsweb WorldConnect trees working again. Sure they are viewable and searchable but we still cannot upload updated information.
    Your last tip to download ALL images is good. I have so many links in my notes which I wanted to go back to where the sites over the years have become extinct.

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